Forum Rocket French French Grammar What's the purpose of "est-ce que"?

What's the purpose of "est-ce que"?

Kenc37

Kenc37

60 year old beginner in French here. Well, I did take french in school 45+ years ago but never enjoyed languages.  But now I have time on my hands so Rocket French it is!

I don't understand why there are so many ways to say the same thing.

C'est une boisson  >>> it is a drink.

To turn this statement into a question, I can........

1)  C'est un boisson?  >>> Is it a drink  (assume the tone rising)
2)  est-ce une boisson >>> is it a drink?    literal translation/inversion.
3)  est-ce que c'est une boisson.  >>>  is it a drink?

I get 1) and 2) we do this in English too - a rising tone denotes a question, but what is the purpose of 3)?  Why not just use 2)........or 1)? what does est-ce que bring to the party?

cheers!   oh umm........ Sante!
Liss-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Liss-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Salut Kenc37 !

I hope that you're enjoying your return to French!

Est-ce que, which literally translates to "is it that" (but which can often be thought of as a replacement for "do" in questions), can bring a slightly different register to the conversation. To explain this, let's look at a few ways in which you could ask someone if they like a movie.

Aimes-tu ce film ? "(Do) you like this movie? (lit. Like you this movie?)"
Est-ce que tu aimes ce film ? "Do you like this movie?"
Tu aimes ce film ? "You like this movie?"

The first question above, which uses inversion (i.e. puts the verb in front of the subject), can be seen as a slightly more formal or higher-register way of asking a question. You will likely see this more often in writing than the second way. This second way uses est-ce que, and can come off as being slightly less formal, or slightly less fancy, if you like, than the inversion method. The final way, which involves simply using a questioning tone while saying an ordinary sentence, is more informal than the other two. This third way shouldn't be used in more formal situations.

That being said, you can find native speakers from different parts of the world (or even from different parts of France) who find the level of formality between aimes-tu and est-ce que tu aimes to be about the same, or who prefer to avoid the est-ce que structure because it takes longer to say or because it is less commonly used in their region; therefore, this rule isn't entirely set in stone.

I hope that this was helpful!

À la prochaine,

Liss
 
Kenc37

Kenc37

Thanks!
There seem to be more options in French than in english, and many mroe words that have more than one meaning depending on the context.

Tres difficile!

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